Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Deep Waters, Mystical Portals

Look down and soar; dive deep and soar higher. This is Kim sharing her own profound experience of Irish sacred wells. They draw her back every May and she renews and replenishes herself from their ancient and eternal energies.
This is a post in honor of World Water Day that all our readers may partake of these profound energies that water is imbued with. Over to Kim Raikes.

These wells in Ireland remind us of the sacred properties of water in many ways.

St Patrick's Well, Carlanstown, Ireland - photo sourced from Internet

St Patrick's Well in Carlanstown is a visible reminder of the ways in which the early Celts saw the Irish landscape as dotted with portals to the Otherworld.  The Otherworld was their way of describing the realm beyond our earthly world, a realm which is the home of the gods, and the spirits of our loved ones who have passed on.  This idea lent itself well to the incoming Christian belief in heaven.

 Mary’s Well, Rosserk, Ireland - photo by Kim Raikes

Mary's Well in Rosserk is a visible reminder of the miraculous powers associated with water in Irish wells.  Trees which grow up beside or in these wells are also portals.  In the case of the Rosserk well, the tree, which is over 200 years old, has rooted itself in the roof of the well, and there are literally no signs of its roots.  You can look inside the well house and also outside, and see no way in which the tree survives; yet records of the tree’s existence go back to the 1800’s.

Holy Well with underground channel, Kylemore, Ireland - photo by Kim Raikes

The holy well with the underground channel in Kylemore continues the theme of portals to the underworld, because its rivulet disappears.  You can hear its waters as their course trickles downward under your feet, yet you can’t see it or touch it; the only evidence of it is the hole through which it dives downward into the earth, and its sound.

St. Brigid’s well, Liscannor, Ireland - photo by Kim Raikes

And St Brigid's Well in Liscannor is a marvelous reminder of the ways in which the early Celtic and Christian themes merged.  Brigid, a triple goddess in Celtic lore, was a healer.  And St. Brigid in early Irish Christianity was a saint who grew up in a Celtic household, and healed.  So this particular well has been famed for 1600 years as a healing source, and its entryway is lined with artifacts, letters, and thank yous from persons all over the world.

A final note:  According to Celtic lore, the Salmon of Knowledge swims between all these wells in Ireland, and unites its waters.  Many Celtic legends speak of the efforts to capture this salmon and learn all Truth (much like the Tree in the Old Testament account of the Garden of Eden).  

The Salmon’s power is the power of inspiration, wisdom, and communication.

... Kim Raikes

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Sap Flows - Spring Awakening

From Incognita:

The sublime energy we revere as Sarasvati/Saraswati (do read the article so you can enjoy this post better - my post is among other things,  a response to some of her ideas and was perhaps  triggered by it) is portrayed as wild and willful in this article by Mrinal Pande with her playfully irreverent interpretation based on a plethora of details culled from mythology, folklore and her own deeply personal understanding.
I quote below from the article on the history of the deity.
"The verb behind the name Saraswati is the Sanskrit sru, signifying a constant and self-renewing flow of both pure water and also gyan or knowledge. A river with a name such as this was bound to merge and mutate with the Vedic goddess Vac, the creator of multiple streams of fluid thought. Thus Saraswati was born as a constantly purifying, fertilising force that lent a fluidity to languages and sustained all art forms."
Even as we associate her with movement and flow, equally can the goddess be calm, still and contemplative as in the unruffled waters of a lake on a calm day.
When you see her statue, poised in meditation you understand she is her own person.

Image taken from http://www.lotussculpture.com/ - dates back to 2008. 
Bronze sculpture from South India

And today she decided to make her demand for a post in her honor.  The call of The Muse has to be heeded so this post is neither about my Kashi experience nor the sequel to the diamond-and-date saga as promised to readers. But to be sure it contains teasers to both which you will spot.

Within our veins, in the waterways of our land, through the stems of plants, through cracks in rocks, through the moist breeze as it energizes the spaces between naked branches awaiting spring's awakening breath, the sap of life flows. Again sap held my attention as I sifted through my memories of Diamond Harbour's dates and the story I planned to share. Popular lore has it that Sarasvati and Lakshmi are rivals. My own understanding tells me though, that they flow in and out of each other and hold each other together in synergy.
I think of the date palm being tapped at the base of the crown  enabling the sap that emerges to collect in an earthen pot tied to the trunk just below.

I think of nature's dynamic, of food we draw energy from, food that sustains the body and the mind. The earthen pot (Lakshmi the earth goddess) receives the one that flows.
I recall the wood-nymph we encountered waiting for us under a tree, resting calmly on the earth's lap and waiting to be absorbed by her.
Photo - Kim Raikes

As I write this Kim looks at the picture and shares these thoughts.
"I have such wonderful memories of this encounter! You had seen her in the park at the time of Sarasvati puja in early Feb. and were hoping she would still be there when we arrived in May. Amazingly, she waited all that time for us. She seemed to be almost melting into the tree and the earth, an ephemeral spirit. I am still in awe of her gracious welcome and creative wisdom. And I am still thanking the unknown person who placed her by that tree, for others to experience her divine presence!"

Images of earthen pots with tender sap dripping into them bring me to what I am in the process of creating as an offering to celebrate Sarasvati's festival. You guessed it - Lakshmi in the form of kheer cooked with all those symbols of the goddess - rice, milk and sweet scented spices. I am in a fix whether to attribute the date palm sap I pour in, to Lakshmi or to Sarasvati. Meanwhile I see myself with ladle in hand stirring the pot and watching the rice grains soften and melt into the milk. I see myself in the image of Annapurna the Goddess of Kashi (Varanasi).
Without her shakti(feminine energy), the flowing sap and the freshly harvested rice can't come together as one , nor be served to sustain the universe.  She is the goddess of provision.I smile happily, with renewed understanding of the magical trio of Devis and their secret covenant with one another. They resonate with our Triple Spiral - the creators of this venture in 2012. Our energies and our contributions have always been interchangeable. When one of us goes into a state of meditation, another one takes over and sings and dances, while a third stirs the pot with a heady brew.
As the palm sap flows gently into the cooking pot, my understanding of these divine energies rises to another level.

No Lakshmi is not necessarily about "big things and big money", though she can deal with them on their terms. She is even more fundamentally about the life-giving essentials, the rice that Annapurna is the dispenser of! And Sarasvati is the wisdom that enables us to realize this interconnection.  Wisdom is still even as it flows - a paradox.

The article by Ms Pande quotes from Vac Sutra (Scroll down to  Rig Veda.X.125.6-8)
I move among the Gods, I hold them, sustain them… whosoever breathes, sees, hears or eats does so because of me… I create powerful creators and embed them with wisdom and sight… my powers overflow the universe..” 

Perhaps that is one of her of her manifestations - the power of expression for which devotees pray to her, the power to say it as it is! 

Does the reader still feel she has an edge over her sisters? I leave you to contemplate that one. To my mind she seems to contain them even as she is contained by them.

Meanwhile let the sap flow and wisdom awaken with the coming of spring!

Read also The Well Whisperer

Photos where not credited are by self.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Diamonds and Dates - Back On The Trail

From Incognita:

Our boat drifts back onto charted waters after free-floating a while in dark and risky underground streams of the mind.
Monday morning brought inspiration from one of our page contributors Panthera Leo, as she posted her picture in a boat near the Imambara, Hooghly with a quote from Roman Payne's "The Wandress"
"Just as a painter paints,
and a ponderer ponders,
a writer writes,
and a wanderer wanders." 

I promptly flipped open the pages of our Imramma Journal to resume where we left off writing the chronicles of  our own wanderings.

This space has not seen an update for two years. That's as long as we wandered without pause. Or maybe just didn't find a pause in the right place at the right time for writing it all down and sharing.

The last time we posted, we were looking forward to Varanasi where I, at least, was looking for nothing in particular. I was rewarded with much that I took with me locked away in deep inner spaces where the spirit resides and plays free. Maybe now is the time to unlock those spaces and let those hidden energies float free like the mist over the Ganga after dark. I can hear the waves lapping against the steep, dark steps of ghat after ghat as Babu, our boatman flips his oar and cuts through the dark, silken waters to take our boat slowly and steadily from Dashashvamedha back to Chowki Ghat. An occasional floating lamp crosses the boat's path, gently twinkling its benevolent eye in our direction as it seems to say "so long, see you again". We have already set our own lamp offering to the river, afloat (the picture shows you our Research Associate Nipun Srivastava getting the lamp ready) and watched as it set out on its own Imramma.
While we owe our readers a great deal more on our Varanasi adventure, we will reserve most of it as part of the offerings included in Project StepWell - part of  our "Rivers of Fortune" journey that started in 2007 (you will find those tales recorded elsewhere on this space) as a project for Maine Maritime Academy. Chakratirtha Travels was still in the future, awaiting birth.

That journey started on the banks of the Hooghly in Kolkata with our co-founder and mentor Kim Raikes and her family.
And we will rewind to our 2008 summer trip to Diamond Harbour before we move forward to January 2016 that saw me circling back to the same location.
Dilip Das casting his nets in the Hooghly at Diamond Harbor - May 2008
Pic Kim Raikes

 The beautiful Bengal countryside off Diamond Harbor Road
Pic Mary Raikes - May 2008

Early morning mist in May on DH Road
Pic Mary Raikes - May 2008

The shared journey was to honor another journey that had taken place a year and three months earlier, for the final closing of a chapter in my personal heritage. A journey to mark the end of one lifetime for my mother and her symbolic crossing to another realm through the mingling of what remained of her with the silken silt of the Ganges even as a part drifted toward the the Mother Waters. 
This time it was a warm, humid dawn that bloomed into a hot summer day soon after sunrise. The memories of that drive are shrouded in the mists you see in the picture. The road seems to lead to a portal. The chill from that earlier morning was missing as also the sadness of parting. This was the warmth of new meetings and the blazing light of new horizons.

Forward to 2016 January and this is the scene at the very same site we visited in May 2008.
Back to Diamond Harbor with a new companion Tracie Lee from Australia
Tracie is on a Guided Imramma with me. It is an unusually warm January day. The ghat looks different at high noon. You can see the sparkling Diamonds in the water. 

Stone slabs to check erosion are covered over with silt and vegetation
The drive has been riddled with traffic snarls and we reach much later than we had hoped. The route is dusty and we notice random, uncontrolled construction dangerously close to the edge of a road that has always been narrow and not the easiest to navigate. My time machine ticks rapidly back to 1994 and then like a breath of fresh air the nineteen sixties rush in and take over. I taste again the chocolate cones from Flury's* that stayed chilled in the big green pail that would remind my child-self of a squat genie-bottle holding the secrets to cold ice cream and more.  I swiftly leap back into the dust of the present as I hear Tracie sneeze. The dust from all that haphazard construction is getting to her. We turn up the glass and look forward to reaching soon and finding breakfast.
Some snippets of the 51km drive from the city. 

These are best watched on Youtube or using the fullscreen option here, and you can try them slowed down as well

There are a few remaining pockets of pristine green and glass - fields of rice and still ponds - gleaming in the morning sun.  The vehicle is Bapi's Green Taxi aka Sabuj Rath

Well, I have spoken a little about the diamonds but your curiosity about the dates has been piqued for sure. Watch this space!

... to be continued ...

*This is the original tea-room on Park Street   - what you see now is an inept "recreation" - whose history needs detailed reconstruction before the last of that generation fade into history too. I wish I had taken down all those memories from my parents*

Please click on the links to enjoy the post fully. You can see the pictures enlarged if you click on them.